Design: The Biggest Barrier to Financial Equality

By  Sam Gormley, the founder of Osaka Labs

Introduction: The Financial Gap

On one hand, we see the world in the throes of a financial revolution, with a multitude of digital financial solutions replacing conventional banking. On the other hand, 2 billion adults in the world are still bereft of basic financial services.

The goal of creating a world with equal financial opportunities requires the propensity to think universally. A person living in a developing country might have vastly different aims, preferences and level of financial awareness than a citizen living in elsewhere. Furthermore, a reluctance can be seen in many individuals who want to dive into finance, like students involved in a start-up, single mothers juggling family finances, older people after retirement and so on. This is where design comes in as a potential solution. In light of the digitisation of finance, design is what lies between the user and the service, and it can make or break the interaction between them. Hence, even in an area that is typically not design focused i.e. finance, design plays a monumental role. The question that now remains is:

 How do we use design effectively to counter complexity, cater diversity and contribute to the financial stability of the world?

The Problems: What Lies in the Way of Financial Equality

While good design can be the ultimate perpetuator of financial equality, ineffective design can be the complete opposite of it. There are many things that might render the user experience unfruitful, resulting in the user being repelled by the product when the actual goal was to make it more attractive. 

  1. The Complex Nature of Financial Services

The field of finance is mired by tortuous graphs, bar-charts, and mind-numbing statistics. It is no surprise that most financial services can ward off people if not presented in an easily comprehensible, and appealing form. The challenge lies in conveying these complex concepts to the average user without overwhelming them or scaring them away. 

  1. The Use of Technical Language

Language is the biggest asset for effective communication and oftentimes technicality of the language makes for an unsavory user experience. A user bombarded with financial jargon is most likely to abandon his foray into the financial world as soon as he begins. Design heavily based on complicated terms can end up creating a language barrier that is quite difficult for the user to overcome. Instead of technicality, designers should opt for outcome-based language which an outsider can comprehend. 

  1. The Aversion to Financial Discussion

It might be considered boring to discuss finance. Many people take one look at it and conclude that they cannot understand it since it is not their field of work. As a result, people tiptoe around financial discourse because of a lack of comfort and exposure to something that seems quite formidable to comprehend.

The Solution: Breaking Design Barriers

Until recently, design was not prioritized when it came to financial solutions. However, as more and more people from all parts of the world journey into the world of digital finance, the demand for inclusive, user-centric design has grown exponentially.

Design and Experience-focused Strategy

User Experience Design (UXD) is the ultimate tool in this battle for inclusivity. Placing user experience at the top of the list of priorities, designers conceive services based on what the user wants and can easily understand. This practice leads to the creation of simple, intelligent and accessible services that can be tailored and customized to suit a user’s needs. 

Maintaining Simplicity

Complexity can act as an obstacle which stops people from embracing financial services. In order to revolutionize the lives of ordinary people, the user experience needs to be simplified in its interface and language. This can be done by creating a user-friendly interface in the context of the user’s needs. Simplification does not mean that the service provides the bare minimum functionality to its users, it simply means that the users get what they require in a way which they can make sense of. 

Research the Impact of Financial Digitisation

With the growing availability of internet services and smartphones around the world, FinTech has certainly disrupted the financial market in more ways than one. Designing such a digital solution can only be done once the true impact and usage of such services are evaluated. Visiting youth centers or gathering data on the popularity of FinTech in your particular country can facilitate design and enhance inclusivity. 

Inclusive, Wide Range Testing

If the design was undertaken through an inclusive approach, the testing phase needs to be just as inclusive. Apart from in-house testing, services should also be tested by people belonging to the targeted group of users. Since user experience is at the heart of this endeavor, feedback through testing will be valuable in building a user-focused financial solution. 

Design for Customisation

As a designer, one cannot think of public as a herd with similar taste and thought process to escape customisation. Customisation requires the UI and dashboard to be tailored according to the user’s liking. For example, a young student starting out may not have the need of complex functionality or the need to keep track of large transactions as a businessman does. This difference in requirements is what calls for the need for customisation.

Conclusion: The Future of Design and Finance

Today, FinTech is at the forefront of a major wave of disruption and has emerged as a tool with amazing potential. Even rigid financial institutions are slowly thawing to the idea of embracing it and in the near future, most major banks will find it profitable to partner with FinTech firms.

With people from different cultures, native languages and levels of education wanting to enter the folds of the global economy, by 2022, the financial landscape of will be much more populated than it is now. In that context, user experience based design for FinTech is vital to the endeavour of bringing financial services to all. It will be up to the designers to eliminate these differences, bridge the financial gap and create a user-friendly experience. The ultimate goal is to use design as a facilitator instead of a barrier to encourage inclusivity and establish a measure of financial equality.